Thursday, July 12, 2012


To express the incommunicable is a gift, a gift which Ms Joanne Limburg possesses abundantly. The fact that the narrative is an account of inchoate personal experience renders her memoir 'The woman who thought too much' doubly genuine. We read many memoirs about mental health,. 'The bell jar', ' Girl interrupted', 'An unquiet mind', 'Darkness visible' come to mind yet before Ms Limburg's  compelling account a good memoir, indeed a good narrative of ocd was hard to find. This is partially attributable to the hierarchization and gradations of mental illness. With bipolar and depression and schizophrenia in one trajectory and panic attacks, ocpd, ptsd on the other, ocd lies in the interstices neither given requisite popular attention nor fully and contemptuously disregarded. Yet given its ambivalent position within psychiatric circles ocd is considered in the real world with contempt, unmitigated disdain, and unflattering sanctimony.

Joanne Limburg sculpts her prose into such droll, beautiful, artistic poetic whorls that the lyricism inherent in her work is seamless and natural. Her wit and dark humor recalls Margaret Atwood. Ms Limburg laces her narrative not as one that is studded with events and vignettes to underscore her thematic concern but fuses the narrative of a chronological life with stream of consciousness interjections of disquiet, stippling a seemingly harmless encounter or stable emotional surface with unnerving ripples and forebodings.

And while the medicalized nature of her ailment is addressed the existential tone of apprehensions, fears, obsessions is never absent. When she describes her premonitory fears taking on grotesque proportions and imperiling the performing of the smallest quotidian task she demonstrates the frangible human mind, its egotisms, deceptions, neurochemical concerns and humanist prepossessions. In limpid prose Ms Limburg's narrative comes across not as an overcompensatory rationalization or expiation seeking. It is a self contained, inviolable narrative that makes a point through the delineation of her life which as it unravels makes larger cultural observations on societal stigma and incomprehension.

But the biggest battle for Ms Limburg is the sifting through the maze of obsessive thinking, the self defeating thoughts, reduplicating , the deterrent such thoughts become, the hurdles they are when even a small task is to be done. The psychological self stigma, the internalization of worthlessness and the attrition of years of convoluted spirals of thought are counterpointed by her unfaltering honesty in seeing her ailment for what it is, to grasp the social layers that encompass it and to navigate through her travails . And this memoir, is a palpable actualization of a strong will, noble conscience, unwinking intelligence and luminous soul.

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